Monday, November 21, 2005

Michigan, April 2004

Posted in pilipinas forum (PF) egroups, April 23, 2004:

Here now in Midland, Michigan. I and another Pinoy participant, Ellen Cain of Foundation for Econ. Freedom (FEF), arrived here yesterday after a 20-hours trip from Manila via Nagoya (1 1/2 hrs. lay-over) andDetroit (2 hrs lay-over). Our US sojourn is sponsored by Atlas Economic ResearchFoundation (, based in Virginia. Some notes here...

(1) Pre-departure inspections, NAIA, Manila.
Man, what a body search! You have to remove your belt, watch, cellphone, etc. 3x! First at the airport main inspection and X-ray machine area. Second, before the departure lounge, where the shoes have to be removed as well. Third, at the departure lounge and here, all hand-carried luggages are inspected one by one; cameras are turned on and off to show that they're indeed cameras. Then a full body search by metal detector -- from head to toe, from left fingers to right fingers; from the left ear to the right ear! Could a bomb be implanted in one's ear (an "ear bomb"), or nose (a "nose bomb"), or under the armpit (an"armpit bomb")? Ahh, some people indeed have armpit bomb ("putok") and it's a pollutive one, he he he. Damn those terrorists! They've succeeded in making many governments paranoid, and air travellers are now the most suspected creatures on earth and hence, are subjected to the most rigorous inspection. What a life! Or... is this type of inspection done only for US-bound passengers?

(2) Nagoya City and airport.
Though I've been to a number of Asian countries before, never been to Japan. And I'm impressed with what I saw from the air -- lots of skyways, reclaimed lands, seems no traffic in its various road network. But very few trees in the city center though the streets and overall land-zoning are well-planned. The trees are out there surrounding the city, and it's a thick forest land. The airport was not busy. I think our plane was the only internationally-bound plane at the time we landed. Lots of Japanese personnel at the airport (he he he).

(3) Detroit City and airport.
Wide tracts of agri land before reaching the city. This is my first trip to theUS, and again, I'm impressed by the good planning of the city; there seems to be no congestion of buildings and houses. The airport is filled with dozens of Northwest airplanes. Detroit is NW's hub, i'm told. Ahh, ok.

(4) US immigration.
Where potential terrorists could be skinned alive if caught... The young officer was serious when he looked at me, comparing my boyish-looking picture at my passport and US visa, and my current slightly long-haired, Bruce Springsteen look-alike face (ouch! ubo-ubo!). The usual questions -- your purpose in coming to the US, where you're staying, when are you leaving, etc. The fingerprinting (left and right forefingers) and picture-taking went well as I smiled at the small camera, thinking that a thousand bucks would fall into my hands if I smiled well :-)

(6) Midland, Michigan.
Saginaw airport is about 45 minutes by plane from Detroit, and the airport is about 15 minutes by car from this small city of Midland. Farmlands surround the city. At this time, sunset is around 9pm. Nice place, but the pedestrian lanes are empty of people! You will certainly miss Manila and many parts of the Philippines, with its multitude of people walking down the streets almost everywhere. No bicycles, people don't walk either. Cars and trucks dot the roads and houses. I think this scene is true in most states of the country. Maybe this is one reason why many Americans are fat (I read once that about 1/4 of all Americansare obese!). Unlike the Europeans where people walk and bike a lot. In Amsterdam for instance, there's a 3-level parking for bicycles alone at the central train station, plus hundreds of other bicycles are parked around the station. Sweden and Denmark are also bicycle-friendly countries.

Maybe one reason for the absence of bike/walk culture is the price of gasoline. In the US, only around P25-30/liter equivalent, whereas in most European countries, it's about P80/liter. I seldom saw trucks and big cars like Ford Expedition in Sweden and Denmark. There are far more Ford Expedition andChevrolet Suburban in Metro Manila than in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

(6) Northwest Airline.
Some observations here:
(a) Passengers -- mostly Filipinos! Hundreds of Filipinos really leave for theUS everyday.
(b) Food -- except for dinner, lunch and breakfast was not so delicious, at least compared to Thai Airways. I took Thai Air last year (Mla-Copenhagen,Munich-Mla, via Bangkok), and food was great!
(c) Movies -- from Manila to Detroit, 4 movies were shown, all drama and/or comedy. No sex & violence movies! My libidoic desires were doused -- he he, joke.

Our first assignment -- attend the Mackinac Center for Public Policy Leadership Conference -- will start today at 6pm, until April 24 evening. There will be 29 of us participants, nearly 1/2 of whom are from foreign lands (Phils, HK, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Argentina, Bolivia, Italy, Zimbabwe).

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